Treblinka. Our last stop in Poland. There is nothing to see here but memorials, which is more than fitting because it was where my grandparents' families lost their lives. Their last stop. Nothing to remember them by.

850,000 are murdered here. There was no selection - it was just straight to the gas.

It is isolate and forlorn and freezing and getting dark when we get there. The trees ringing the site are tall and thick. Our voices echo off them back to ourselves.

There is large memorial ringed by hundreds of upright stones - tombstones for entire villages and towns. Dov and I quickly find the one for our town - Sokolow Podlaski - large and prominent.

Dov decides we will pray Maariv next to the Sokolow stone. As we begin to pray, the words of the Shema catch in my throat. It is almost impossible to choke them out. So many people said those same last words right here at this spot in the cold Polish woods. So many it is inconceivable.

But here we are - Dov and I. Children of Sokolow. We are still here and we still cry out to Hashem standing on the site meant to exterminate us. They did not succeed.
In a few hours we will be flying to Israel. To be a free people in our land. להיות עם חופשי בארצנו

Orie Niedzviecki


Moshe Carmeli in Sokolow

In Treblinka

With me

Mass grave

My Grandfather - Shlomo.
My Grandmother - Hava.
Their daughters - Haya and Feige.
Their sons - Menachem, Hersh (Zvi, my father) and Bunim.
The family name was Ciechanowiecki.
We changed to Carmeli in Israel.
Moshe Carmeli

Courtesy: Moshe Carmeli

Stutman Family

Hana, Moshe and Nahum Stutman, Passover of 1935, home of the photographer of Sokolow, Wąs.

Courtesy: Ash Kelon / Facebook



The invitation to this year's ceremony commemorating the victims of the liquidation of the ghetto on September 22, 1942



It is probably the first post-war mezuzah made in Sokolow.

After World War II almost all Jews vanished from Poland. Only void remained. The signs of former inhabitants presence, typical for Poland, are marks of the mezuzot on the doorframes of the houses, now inhabited by new residents. These marks, holes are empty. Mi Polin team is making new mezuzot, which are casts of these traces. Cast in metal, commemorate Jewish life that was going on there years ago, fill the emptiness. If you put a scroll inside, it will give a new life to mezuzot, which don’t exist any more. The mezuzot tell stories about traces from different places in Poland and it will probably disappear during next years. In this way it brings about the memory of the people who disappeared and is a kind of message from the world, which doesn’t exist any more. The mezuzot from the past get a new life and can be real mezuzot again.
This one was made on 4 Wilczyńskiego (former Rogowska) Street.


Translation of Memorial Book

Project Synopsis:  This project is being initiated in order to fund the Yiddish to English translation of this 816 page book, Sefer ha-zikaron; Sokolow-Podlaski  (Memorial Book - Sokolow-Podlaski) for the Jewish Genealogical Society Yizkor library.

Based on an English translation of the Table of Contents, (which can be found at (http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/sokolowa_podlaski/sokolowa_podlaski.html), the book documents the history of the Jews of Sokolow-Podlaski, a small Jewish village located about 35 miles southeast of Warsaw, Poland.

Project Description
Many of the young Jewish men and women who immigrated to the United States from Sokolow-Podlaski in the early part of the twentieth century settled in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris and Israel.  In New York and Chicago, they formed groups that met regularly to maintain contact with each other and the families they had left behind. Today, their first, second, and third generation descendants know little of their Polish heritage and even less about the small shtetl from which their relatives came.  A primary purpose of this project is to fund the translation of Remembrances from Yiddish to English so that present and future generations of Sokolover descendants can learn about the lives, trials, and tribulations of their Polish forebears.

The Memorial Book - Sokolow-Podlaski is a yizkor book; five hundred of the book’s 816 pages are taken up with narratives about the destruction of the Sokolow ghetto, survival and death in concentration camps, survival in the forest, and life in the French Resistance, among other contexts which provided Soklovers haven. Twenty closely printed pages comprise a list of those murdered during the Shoah, another section contains eulogies to individuals whose survivors wanted to remember them in writing, and yet another section includes sponsored yizkor notices.  But if the book memorializes people, it also memorializes a place and a way of life.

The first three hundred pages of the Memorial Book is a section entitled “The Old Home,” that contains numerous vignettes of life as it was lived in Jewish Sokolow for centuries.  This section also includes information about political groups and civic organizations, including the loan and burial funds that were fundamental to Jewish communal life.  The memorial list and necrology that honor the memories of those who did not survive the Shoah enable readers to fulfill the commandment to remember and for this reason they are invaluable.  So are the descriptive and narrative sections of the book that enable us to remember the culture from which we came and, through it, to know who we are.   As those who survived the Shoah or heard about it directly from people who experienced it reach the ends of their lives, it is especially important that the details, the texture, of life as it was, be preserved.

The Memorial Book - Sokolow-Podlaski will interest people who have roots in Sokolow, and it will also interest scholars of pre-Holocaust Jewish Poland, the Holocaust, Polish history, and shtetl life.  With the recent opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, non-Jews in Eastern Europe may wish for access to first-hand accounts of a history that is also theirs, and this book will provide them.

Memorial Book - Sokolow-Podlaski was written in Yiddish.  It is an important book that merits wide availability in English for the Jewish Genealogy Yizkor Library.  Anyone interested in supporting the translation effort, please access the JewishGen web site (above) to make a tax–free donation.  As the translation proceeds, sections will be posted as they are completed.

Project Coordinators Bea Opengart and Alfred Opengart


Aaron's visit

Today, Aaron Elster, Holocaust survivor from Sokolow, came to see the town with a group from Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. The group was about 35 people (who later went on to Tykocin). We went with Aaron and Susan Abrams - CEO of Illinois Holocaust Museum - at the cemetery to see the grave of Mr and Ms Gorski who saved Aaron's life.


Another visit

A group of instructors from Shem Olam Institute in Israel came to Sokolow today to see the town and learn how to teach their students about its history. Next time they will come back here with their groups.


Meeting in the school

Today the President of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, Piotr Kadlcik, came to school in Sokolow to tell students about Jewish customs and culture. The meeting was very interesting and we hope to have more such events in the future.



Do you remember the old mezuzah trace at the building near Mały Rynek? Mi Polin team arrived today to Sokolow to make mezuzah cast to their project. It turned out that the building is renovated and the door frame is to be thrown out. Helena and Aleksander rescued it, took it home and now it will be part of their exhibition.


Jewish Community of Sokolow

Article written on the occasion of 590 anniversary of the city of Sokolow.

When I first came to Sokolow Podlaski with my father back in 1998, there was nothing, just nothing in the whole town that remembered the beautiful large Jewish Community that was an integral and important part of the town for so many generations. We were very disappointed and hurt. We felt the 5800 Jews of Sokolow were forgotten and banished from their birthplace again. That is why I am so grateful and appreciative of your invitation to include our story which is also your story in this important event. This is a blessed change which will make us all better people - pure human beings who share the same pains and the same dreams, people before they became separated by ideas of religions and countries. So let me first congratulate you, All dear citizens so Sokolow Podlaski, a town that is always in my heart. I wish you a lot of prosperity, flourishment and let All of you have better and better success in all spheres of life.

I am representing about 300 people who are decadents of Sokolow Jews who live all over the world - from Australia, United States, Israel, France and more.
Let me start telling our story from the beginning.

In 1424, when Sokolow became a town, there were already Jews In the area.
The old synagogue was built in 1650, a year in which the owner of Sokolow, Boguslaw Radzivill, gave various rights to the Jews of the town. Another synagogue which exits to theses days was built in Dluga street in 1841. The Jewish people of Sokolow were highly literate - both women and men and they spoke Polish as well as Yiddish. They were mostly engaged in crafts - they worked as barbers, bakers, furries, cap makers, tailors, butchers and also in trade.

Life in Sokolow was flourishing in all areas of life. There used to be various youth movements, libraries, schools, theatres and Sokolow Jewry had one of the most famous yeshiva court in Europe - the chassidic yeshiva of rabbi Yizchk Zelig Morgenstern-One of the most famous rabbis all over Erope. His yeshiva in pike a street included classic students who came from all over Poland and Europe to study Torah and Talmud with this special bright rabbi, who served as a doctor as well. This went on for centuries until dark clouds came wipe it all forever.

At the beginning of the 20th century the difficult economic situation together with the rise of the nationalist government of Poland, made life difficult and many Jews immigrated to the United States and Argentina. Still at the time the Jewish population grew to be 5800 people, which was 60 percent of the whole population of Sokolow in the eve of 1939. The nazis invaded Sokolow on the 1st of September 1939, clearing their way with troops on land as well as areal attacks. My father's little sister, Rachel - Ruchale in Yiddish - was killed that day together with a friend. They were both on their way to school. They were only 10 years old. 19 other Jews were killed that day and a lot more injured. A lot of discussion started among Jewish families. Should we leave everything behind and save our lives or shall we stay and hope that the Germans will be as civilised as they were in the last time they conquered Poland in the First World War. People were very confused and didn't know what to do. My grandfather, like many others in the sorrow ding decided it was enough to lose one child. He wouldn't risk his family and he crossed the Bug river which was set then as the new border between Poland and Russia in the Molotov agreement. My grandmother refused to leave her old parents behind and my grandfather had to take her by force. My family, like all other Jewish families at the time was religious and had many children each. My grandmother for example had 7 sisters and brothers and each one of them had 7-10 children. Nobody survived. Not Share not Henia not Soul, nobody.
On their arrival, the nazis made a ghetto in 2 streets around the synagogue cramming about 5000 people. Another 2000 Jews were brought to live in this tiny area front nearby towns like Lodz and Kalisz. They were all forced to work for the nazis and got in return a small portion of soup and bread. In 1941 the nazis closed the ghetto with a brick wall. Hunger, typhus and death were everyday and everywhere. Jews were desperate and some of them who couldn't bear the suffering killed themselves. According to testimonies, the catholic community reacted with either ignoring the situation or helping the nazis and turn in Jews they saw trying to run. Some of them did risk their lives to save Jews like in the case of Aaron Elster.

On the most sacred day for the Jewish people the nazis forced all the Jews to gather in the town's square- the Maly Rynek and deported them in cattle wagons to Treblinka. After their arrival there they were all burned to death. Those who tried escape were shot on the spot. More than 90 percent of the Jewish citizens of Sokolow Podlaski were killed. This of course happened all over Europe.

Today, there are a few dozens decendants of this community but their children like me and their grandchildren are doing everything possible to remember our dear families who were killed and tortured just because they were Jews. They did nothing wrong.
We live all around the world - Israel, the USA, Australia, France and more. We all remember. We will never forget and even though all of us are very successful and happy. We live in the shadow of our history, of our missing grandparents and aunts and cousins.

I am writing this article with the hope that telling our story which is also this town's story will enable our next generations a better future. A future in which catholic and Jews live together peacefully, knowing we were all made by the same god.
Remembering we are all children of god. God bless you, dear citizens of Sokolow.

Shoshi Shatit


The Ceremony on April 28

You are invited to attend the ceremony of the Day of Holocaust
In commemoration of Sokolow Podlaski’s community
To be held on Monday April 28th at 5:30 pm
Near Sokolow’s matzeva at Holon’s South cemetery

17:00 - 17:30 - gathering and candles lighting
17:30 - 18:30 - Yizkor, Kaddish, El Male Rahamim, Artistic segment
18:30 - Meeting at Sarah Sade’s house; Migdal St. 65/17, Raanana
This year the ceremony will be dedicated to the memory of the life and legacy of Jewish Sokolow
For more information: Shoshi 0506946566; Sarah: 0542198881


Interview with Aaron Elster

Your book will soon be published in Polish. You've been waiting for this for a few years, and now the inhabitants of the town where you were born, will finally be able to read your story. Are you happy with this, or a little afraid of?

I am very happy that it will be published in Polish. It would be great if the book could be used in the towns schools as a piece of history about what transpired during the Holocaust and how one of their former neighbors survived.
My story could be used as way to teach young people about Tolerence, about speaking out against prejudice.To understand that each and every young person can make a difference,can help prevent future Genocides against any people. To accept that we are all different and have to respect one another. After all we all belive in the same God.
 I would like students to know that they can overcome all adversity and become the person they want to be, If they believethat they CAN.

How was Sokolow before the war? Did you have here non-Jewish friends? Was the pre-war anti-Semitism a big problem?


Sokolow Community

Dear friends,
First and foremost, it is so exciting for me (I am Shoshi Shatit, Israel) to see that more and more descandants of SP Community are joing in and are eager to track and keep memory going. As a child , I always used to hear my parents say-"There's no one left". This increasing number of people who are joining us shows this phrase wasn't exact- it depends if you look back or look forward. I think our group looks back only to bring history and truth and legacy forward- to pass it to our children and grandchildren.

I welcome every person who wishes to become our community member, to join our group. So far, we succeeded having two memeorial ceremonies in Israel, a meeting in which people could share and find connections and of course we had the honour of enabling our dear Kasia to visit Israel and participate in the last memorial ceremony we had in Israel.

You can contact me in the following email and I will join your email to the rest of the group so you can ask and share your information with all members.

I wish you a great day,

Shoshi Shatit